Maybe Janet Yellen is right: The U.S. economy can handle its first rate hike since the Great Recession.
As a result, the brutal stock selloff on Thursday was likely a gross overreaction. It's unlikely that it will be discussed in this manner as bad news sizzles, but the November employment report signaled an underlying strength in the U.S. economy. That should be rewarded in the stock market, not penalized. Consider the spate of China slowdown-related dour manufacturing data we have digested in the past few months. Mining? What a disaster. How about the lackluster margin expansion from S&P 500 companies in the third quarter? Yet, the November employment report, similar to October, surprised investors by coming in above consensus forecasts. In other words, two straight months of good news based on current price-to-earnings multiples that investors are still not rewarding.
Time for some P/E multiple expansion? Perhaps, the U.S. economy is not on death's door.
Here is what you have to consider amazing from the jobs data:
The unemployment rate held steady at 5% in spite of ongoing announcements from big companies of layoffs. The picture here is that despite the political rhetoric, there is hiring going on in the small-business community, while big businesses are adding employment to more profitable areas (it's not all layoffs).
Prior-month job numbers were upwardly revised, including the better-than-expected October number. One gets the sense of an economy slowly gaining steam. Again, not rip-roaring growth, but an environment that is definitely capable of handling higher interest rates in 2016.
Construction continues to be a bright spot in the economy, likely helped in recent months by warmer than average temperatures. Favorable weather or not, it's encouraging to see people continuing to invest in their homes. It's a theme we saw play out again in the strong third quarter for Home Depot (HD). I believe we are headed for one more major spike in housing activity next year, as people scramble to lock in low rates. As I wrote on Real Money earlier in the week, homebuilder DR Horton (DHI) is my pick.
In all, this was a pretty amazing jobs report. I would be surprised if this report doesn't mark the start of a strong conclusion to the month for equities. We know what Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve are going to do soon, the market baked that in on Thursday, along with Draghi underwhelming on his maneuvers. What the market hasn't baked into stock prices yet are that maybe, just maybe, the U.S. economy is building momentum and gradual rate hikes can be digested. In light of the news so far this year on the global economy, that is darn amazing.